How to be a Better Mentor & Why I Can’t Help You
It’s really weird being a mentor and I’m sure it’s odd for you too.
I’m not the smartest person in this design community. In fact, I don’t think I have the experience that wise souls can provide to young pupils eager to take on the world.
I’ve only been designing professionally for about 4 years and compared to other mentors out there, I’m just a pea in my dad’s expansive garden. Go talk to directors from the FAANG or talk to other design leads who’ve been at this game for years.
But do you hear that voice? That’s my imposter syndrome flaring up. In fact, we all have that voice in some way or form, but, if I completely crumple, then it wins.
I might not have the most experience in the room but I have my own, and that’s pretty priceless. I’ve got a story to share and experienced some of the stuff you’ll go through.
So how do I conquer this problem? How do I learn to accept this voice in my head and learn to cultivate it rather than squash it?
I unleash my superpowers and hopefully, you can get the chance to unlock your own.
Let’s try to investigate ways that work for me and hopefully you’ll get to reflect on ways to make your mentoring relationships the best they can be.
What’s your superpower?
Every human gets lost at some point. Even if it may seem minor, it can trickle down to other aspects of our life that shouldn’t be ignored.
Try to investigate how you can do this. Before you start mentoring, do you know what makes you a good leader? What’s your superpower?
If you can’t answer this then there’s a lot of soul searching left to do.
Stick by your word
Once I tried asking someone to mentor me after they did an entire talk about networking. They promoted their “coffee once a week with someone new” and I was convinced this person would be my first mentor and chat with me.
They didn’t message me back but they messaged my definitely more attractive friend. Don’t be that person, when you say something then stick by it. Be the example.
Fully inclusive sessions
Sorry everyone, but this isn’t about you. I know you’ve got a colourful past that can fill a two-hour podcast but this ain’t about you, sorry.
If you can’t listen, ask follow-up questions, and let them work through their problems themselves then you’ve failed.
Please don’t push your own values nor perspective since it’s completely subjective to your own experiences and biases.
Create a space that makes your mentee feel at ease and is conducive to growth. Not only will you learn something about yourself, but they’ll feel more empowered to share with you. Chat with them like you would your younger self.
Craft a game plan together
Have you ever been in a room with a teacher where all they tell you is to click this, type that and learn this without a “why”?
Then you must know the pain of being spoken to like a student. In some ways, you’re the teacher, but this is their chance to ask questions. You can tailor their next steps perfectly to the person.
Pretend you’re a coach and come together for a game plan that both of you agree on. Only then will things actually get done and both of you can hold each other accountable at the 3-month reunion.
Now get out there and mentor
We believe you’re ready to be a great mentor. Who is “we”? Well anyone that’s ever had a great conversation with you. What does that look like?
When both people are connecting through shared experiences and are leaving the session glowing the same way I look at apple pie with ice cream.
All it takes is a strong value system, a healthy environment, self-awareness, some sort of game plan, and a healthy dose of practice.
Let me know if this helped you and good luck!
Side note: check this video out and watch a full analysis on why “Miles’s Leap of Faith And Why it’s the Best Scene in Any Movie Ever” featuring amazing storytelling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlYd_OfQu9g and the inspiration behind this article
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